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did not find their lost shipmates here, they ought not to
expect to find them at all. Then this reef, or island, was
of vast importance in other points of view. It might be
come their future home ; perhaps for years, possibly for
life. The appearances of the sunken reefs, over and among
which he had just passed, had greatly shaken Mark's hope
of ever getting the ship from among them, and he even
doubted the possibility of bringing her down, before the
wind, to the place where he was then going. All thes



60 THE CRATER;

considerations, which began to press more and more pain
fully on his mind, each foot as he advanced, served to in
crease the intensity of the interest with which he noted
every appearance on, or about, the reef, or island, that he
was now approaching. Bob had less feeling on the sub
ject. He had less imagination, and foresaw consequences
and effects less vividly than his officer, and was more ac
customed to the vicissitudes of a seaman's life. Then he
had left no virgin bride at home, to look for his return ;
and had moreover made up his mind that it was the - will
of Providence that he and Mark were to ' Robinson Crusoe
it' awhile on ' that bit of a reef.' Whether they should
ever be rescued from so desolate a place, was a point on
which he had not yet begun to ponder.

The appearances were anything but encouraging, as the
dingui drew nearer and nearer to the naked part of the reef.
The opinions formed of this place, by the examination made
from the cross-trees, turned out to be tolerably accurate,
in several particulars. It was just about a mile in length,
while its breadth varied from half a mile to less than an
eighth of a mile. On its shores, the rock along most of
the reef rose but a very few feet above the surface of the
water, though at its eastern, or the weather extremity, it
might have been of more than twice the usual height ; its
length lay nearly east and west. In the centre of this
island, however, there was a singular formation of the rock,
which appeared to rise to an elevation of something like
sixty or eighty feet, making a sort of a regular circular
mound of that height, which occupied no small part of the
widest portion of the island. Nothing like tree, shrub, or
grass, was visible, as the boat drew near enough to render
Buch things apparent. Of aquatic birds there were a good
many; though even they did not appear in the numbers
that are sometimes seen in the vicinity of uninhabited
islands. About certain large naked rocks, at no great dis
tance however from the principal reef, they were hovering
in thousands.

At length the little dingui glided in quite near to the
island. Mark was at first surprised to find so little surf
beating against even its weather side, but this was ac-
tounted for by the great number of the reefs that lay for



OB, VULCAN'S PEAK. 61

miles without it ; and, particularly, by the fact that one
line of rock stretched directly across this weather end,
distant from it only two cables' lengths, forming a pretty
little sheet of perfectly smooth water between it and the
island. Of course, to do this, the line of reef just men
tioned must come very near the surface ; as in fact was the
case, the rock rising so high as to be two or three feet out
of water on the ebb, though usually submerged on the flood.
The boat was obliged to pass round one end of this last-
named reef, where there was deep water, and then to haul
its wind a little in order to reach the shore.

It would be difficult to describe the sensations with
which Mark first landed. In approaching the place, both
he and Bob had strained their eyes in the hope of seeing
some proof that their shipmates had been there; but no
discovery rewarded their search. Nothing was seen, on
or about the island, to furnish the smallest evidence that
either of the boats had touched it. Mark found that he
was treading on naked rock when he had landed, though
the surface was tolerably smooth. The rock itself was of
a sort to which he was unaccustomed ; and he began to sus
pect, what in truth turned out on further investigation to
be the fact, that instead of being on a reef of coral, he was
on one of purely volcanic origin. The utter nakedness of
the rock both surprised and grieved him. On the reefs, in
every direction, considerable quantities of sea-weed had
lodged, temporarily at least; but none of it appeared to
have found its way to this particular place. Nakedness
and dreariness were the two words which best described
the island ; the only interruption to its solitude and deso
lation being occasioned by the birds, which now came
screaming and flying above the heads of the intruders,
showing both by their boldness and their cries, that they
were totally unacquainted with men.

The mound, in the centre of the reef, was an object too
conspicuous to escape attention, and our adventurers ap
proached it at once, with the expectation of getting a better
look-out from its summit, than that they had on the lower
level of the surface of the ordinary reef. Thither then
they proceeded, accompanied by a large flight of the birds.
Neither Mark nor Bob, however, had neglected to turn
6



62 THE CRATER;

his eyes towards the now distant ship, which was appa
rently riding at its anchor, in exactly the condition in
which it had been left, half an hour before. In that quar
ter all seemed right, and Mark led the way to the mount,
with active and eager steps.

On reaching the foot of this singular elevation, our ad
venturers found it would not be so easy a matter as they
had fancied, to ascend it. Unlike the rest of the reef
which they had yet seen, it appeared to be composed of a
crumbling rock, and this so smooth and perpendicular as to
render it extremely difficult to get up. A place was found
at length, however, and by lending each other a hand,
Mark and Bob finally got on the summit. Here a surprise
was ready for them, that drew an exclamation from each,
the instant the sight broke upon him. Instead of finding
an elevated bit of table-rock, as had been expected, a cir
cular cavity existed within, that Mark at once recognised
to be the extinct crater of a volcano ! After the first asto
nishment was over, Mark made a close examination of
the place.

The mound, or barrier of lava and scoriae that composed
the outer wall of this crater, was almost mathematically
circular. Its inner precipice was in most places absolutely
perpendicular, though overhanging in a few; there being
but two or three spots where an active man could descend
in safety. The area within might contain a hundred acres,
while the wall preserved a very even height of about sixty
feet, falling a little below this at the leeward side, where
there existed one narrow hole, or passage, on a level with
the bottom of the crater; a sort of gateway, by which to
enter and quit the cavity. This passage had no doubt
been formed by the exit of lava, which centuries ago had
doubtless broken through at this point, and contributed to
form the visible reef beyond. The height of this hole was
some twenty feet, having an arch above it, and its width
may have been thirty. When Mark got to it, which he
did by descending the wall of the crater, not without risk
to his neck, he found the surface of the crater very even
and unbroken, with the exception of its having a slight
descent from its eastern to its western side; or from the
aide oppoaita to the outlet, or gateway, to the gateway



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 63

Itself. This inclination Mark fancied was owing to the
circumstance that the water of the ocean had formerly en
tered at the hole, in uncommonly high tides and tempests,
and washed the ashes which had once formed the bottom
of the crater, towards the remote parts of the plain. These
ashes had been converted by time into a soft, or friable
rock, composing a stone that is called tufa. If there had
ever been a cone in the crater, as was probably the case,
it had totally disappeared under the action of time and the
wear of the seasons. Rock, however, the bed of the crater
could scarcely be yet considered, though it had a crust
which bore the weight of a man very readily, in nearly
every part of it. Once or twice Mark broke through, as
one would fall through rotten ice, when he found his shoes
covered with a light dust that much resembled ashes. In
other places he broke this crust on purpose, always finding
beneath it a considerable depth of ashes, mingled with
some shells, and a few small stones.

That the water sometimes flowed into this crater was
evident by a considerable deposit of salt, which marked
the limits of the latest of these floods. This salt had pro
bably prevented vegetation. The water, however, never
could have entered from the sea, had not the lava which
originally made the outlet left a sort of channel that was
lower than the surface of the outer rocks. It might be
nearer to the real character of the phenomenon were we
to say, that the lava which had broken through the barrier
at this point, and tumbled into the sea, had not quite filled
the channel which it rather found than formed, when it
ceased to flow. Cooling in that form, an irregular crevice
was left, through which the element no doubt still occa
sionally entered, when the adjacent ocean got a sufficient
elevation. Mark observed that, from some cause or other,
the birds avoided the crater. It really seemed to him thai
their instincts warned them of the dangers that had once
environed the place, and that, to use the language of sail
ors, " they gave it a wide berth," in consequence. What
ever may have been the cause, such was the fact ; few even
flying over it, though they were to be seen in hundreds, in
the air all round it.



64 THE GRATE*}



CHAPTER V.

"The king's son have I landed by himself;
Whom I left cooling of the air with sighs
In an odd angle of the isle, and sitting,
His arms in this sad knot."

Tempest.

HAVING completed this first examination of the crater,
Mark and Bob next picked their way again to the summit
of its wall, and took their seats directly over the arch.
Here they enjoyed as good a look-out as the little island
afforded, not only of its own surface, but of the surround
ing ocean. Mark now began to comprehend the character
of the singular geological formation, into the midst of
which the Rancocus had been led, as it might almost be
by the hand of Providence itself. He was at that moment
seated on the topmost pinnacle of a submarine mountain
of volcanic origin submarine as to all its elevations,
heights and spaces, with the exception of the crater where
he had just taken his stand, and the little bit of visible and
venerable lava, by which it was surrounded. It is true
that this lava rose very near the surface of the ocean, in
fifty places that he could see at no great distance, forming
the numberless breakers that characterized the place; but,
with the exception of Mark's Reef, as Bob named the
principal island on the spot, two or three detached islet&
within a cable's-length of it, and a few little more remote,
the particular haunts of birds, no other land was visible,
far or near.

As Mark sat there, on that rock of concrete ashes, he
speculated on the probable extent of the shoals and reefs
by which he was surrounded. Judging by what he then
saw, and recalling the particulars of the examination made
from the cross-trees of the ship, he supposed that the dan
gers and difficulties of the navigation must extend, in an
east and west direction, at least twelve marine leagues;



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 65

while, in a north and south, the distance seemed to be a
little, and a very little less. There was necessarily a good
deal of conjecture in this estimate of the extent of the vol
canic mountain which composed these extensive shoals;
but, from what he saw, from the distance the ship was
known to have run amid the dangers before she brought
up, her present anchorage, the position of the island, and
all the other materials before him to make his calculation
on, Mark believed himself rather to have lessened than to
have exaggerated the extent of these shoals. Had the
throes of the earth, which produced this submerged rock,
been a little more powerful, a beautiful and fertile island,
of very respectable dimensions, would probably have been
formed in its place.

From the time of reaching the reef, which is now to
bear his name in all future time, our young seaman had
begun to admit the bitter possibility of being compelled to
pass the remainder of his days on it. How long he and
his companion could* find the means of subsistence in a
place so barren, was merely matter of conjecture; but so
long as Providence should furnish these means, was it
highly probable that solitary and little-favoured spot was
to be their home. It is unnecessary to state with what
bitter regrets the young bridegroom admitted this painful
idea ; but Mark was too manly and resolute to abandon
himself to despair, even at such a moment. He kept his
sorrows pent up in the repository of his own bosom, and
endeavoured to imitate the calm exterior of his companion.
As for Bob, he was a good deal of a philosopher by nature ;
and, having made up his mind that they were doomed U
' Robinson Crusoe it,' for a few years at least, he was al
ready turning over in his thoughts the means of doing so tc
the best advantage. Under such circumstances, and witk
such feelings, it is not at all surprising that their presen 1
situation and their future prospects soon became the sub
ject of discourse, between these two solitary seamen.

" We are fairly in for it, Mr. Mark," said Bob, " ani
differ from Robinson only in the fact that there are two of
us; whereas he was obliged to set up for himself, and by
himself, until he fell in with Friday ! ;>

" I wish I could say that was the only difference in oar
6*



66 THE CRATER;

conditions, Betts, but it is very far from being so. In the
first place he had an island, while we have little more than
a reef; he had soil, while we have naked rock ; he had
fresh water, and we have none ; he had trees, while we
have not even a spear of grass. All these circumstances
make out a case most desperately against us."

" You speak truth, sir ; yet is there light ahead. We
have a ship, sound and tight as the day she sailed ; while
Robinson lost his craft under his feet. As long as there
is a plank afloat, a true salt never gives up."

" Ay, Bob, I feel that, as strongly as you can yourself;
nor do I mean to give up, so long as there is reason to
think God has not entirely deserted us. But that ship is
of no use, in the way of returning to our friends and home ;
or, of no use as a ship. The power of man could scarcely
extricate her from the reefs around her."

" It's a bloody bad berth," said Bob, squirting the saliva
of his tobacco half-way down the wall of the crater, " that
I must allow. Howsomever, the ship will be of use in a
great many ways, Mr. Mark, if we can keep her afloat,
even where she is. The water that's in her will last us
two a twelvemonth, if we are a little particular about it;
and when the rainy season sets in, as the rainy season will
be sure to do in this latitude, we can fill up for a fresh
start. Then the ship will be a house for us to live in, and
a capital good house, too. You can live aft, sir, and I '11
take my swing in the forecastle, just as if nothing had
happened."

"No, no, Bob; there is an end of all such distinctions
now. Misery, like the grave, brings all upon a level.
You and I commenced as messmates, and we are likely to
end as messmates. There is a use to which the ship may
be put, however, that you have not mentioned, and to
which we must look forward as our best hope for this world.
She may be broken up by us, and we may succeed in
building a craft large enough to navigate these mild seas,
and yet small enough to be taken through, or over the
reefs. In that way, favoured by Divine Providence, we
may live to see our friends again."

" Courage, Mr. Mark, courage, sir. I know it must be
hard on the feelin's of a married man, like yourself, that



OR, VULCAN S PEAK. 61

has left a parfect pictur' behind him, to believe he is never
to return to his home again. But I don't believe that such
is to be our fate. I never heard of such an end to a Crusoe
party. Even Robinson, himself, got off at last, and had a
desperate hard journey of it, after he hauled his land-tacks
aboard. I like that idee of the new craft 'specially well,
and will lend a hand to help you through with it with all
my heart. I'm not much of a carpenter, it's true; nor do
I suppose you are anything wonderful with the broad-axe
and adze; but two willing and stout men, who has got
their lives to save, can turn their hands to almost anything.
For my part, sir, since I was to be wrecked and to Robin
son it awhile, I'm gratefully thankful that I've got you for
a companion, that 's all !"

Mark smiled at this oblique compliment, but he felt well
assured that Bob meant all for the best. After a short
pause, he resumed the discourse by saying

" I have been thinking, Bob, of the possibility of getting
the ship safely down as far as this island. Could we but
place her to leeward of that last reef off the weather end
of the island, she might lie there years, or until she fell to
pieces by decay. If we are to attempt building a decked
boat, or anything large enough to ride out a gale in, we
shall want more room than the ship's decks to set it up in.
Besides, we could never get a craft of those dimensions
off the ship's decks, and must, of necessity, build it in
some place where it may be launched. Our dingui would
never do to be moving backward and forward, so great a
distance, for it will carry little more than ourselves. All
things considered, therefore, I am of opinion we can do
nothing better to begin with, than to try to get the ship
down here, where we have room, and may carry out our
plans to some advantage."

Bob assented at once to this scheme, and suggested one
or two ideas in approbation of it, that were new even to
Mark. Thus, it was evident to both, that if the ship her
self were ever to get clear of the reef, it must be by passing
out to leeward ; and by bringing her down to the island so
much would be gained on the indispensable course. Thus,
added Bob, she might be securely moored in the little bay
to windward of the island ; and, in the course of time it



68 THE CRATER;

was possible that by a thorough examination of the chan
nels to the westward, and by the use of buoys, a passage
might be found, after all, that would carry them out to sea.
Mark had little hope of ever getting the Rancocus extri
cated from the maze of rocks into which she had so blindly
entered, and where she probably never could have come
but by driving over some of them ; but he saw many ad
vantages in this plan of removing the ship, that increased
in number and magnitude the more he thought on the
subject. Security to the fresh water was one great object
to be attained. Should it come on to blow, and the ship
drift down upon the rocks to leeward of her, she would
probably go to pieces in an hour or two, when not only all
the other ample stores that she contained, but every drop
of sweet water at the command of the two seamen, would
inevitably be lost. So important did it appear to Mark to
make sure of a portion of this great essential, at least, that
he would have proposed towing down to the reef, or island,
a few casks, had the dingui been heavy enough to render
such a project practicable. After talking over these several
points still more at large, Mark and Bob descended from
the summit of the crater, made half of its circuit, and re
turned to their boat.

As the day continued cairn, Mark was in no hurry, but
passed half an hour in sounding the little bay that was
formed by the sunken rocks that lay off the eastern, or
weather end of the Crater Reef, as, in a spirit of humility,
he insisted on calling that which everybody else now calls
Mark's Reef. Here he not only found abundance of water
for all he wanted, but to his surprise he also found a sandy
bottom, formed no doubt by the particles washed from the
surrounding rocks under the never-ceasing abrasion of the
waves. On the submerged reef there were only a few inches
of water, and our mariners saw clearly that it was possible
to secure the ship in this basin, in a very effectual manner,
could they only have a sufficiency of good weather in which
to do it.

After surveying the basin, itself, with sufficient care,
Bob pulled the dingui back towards the ship, Mark sound
ing as they proceeded. But two difficulties were found
between the points that it was so desirable to bring in



OB, VULCAN'S PEAK. 69

communication with each other. One of these difficulties
consisted in a passage between two lines of reef, that ran
nearly parallel for a quarter of a mile, and which were
only halfa cable's-length asunder. There was abundance
of water between these reefs, but the difficulty was in the
course, and in the narrowness of the passage. Mark
passed through the latter four several times, sounding it,
as it might be, foot by foot, and examining the bottom with
the eye; for, in that pellucid water, with the sun near tne
zenith, it was possible to see two or three fathoms down,
and nowhere did he find any other obstacle than this just
mentioned. Nor was any buoy necessary, the water break
ing over the southern end of the outer, and over the north
ern end of the inner ledge, and nowhere else near by, thus
distinctly noting the very two points where it would be
necessary to alter the course.

The second obstacle was much more serious than that
just described. It was a reef with a good deal of water
over most of it; so much, indeed, that the sea did not
break unless in heavy gales, but not enough to carry a
ship like the Rancocus over, except in one, arid that a very
contracted pass, of less than a hundred feet in width.
This channel it would be indispensably necessary to buoy,
since a variation from the true course of only a few fathoms
would infallibly produce the loss of the ship. All the rest
of the distance was easily enough made by a vessel stand
ing down, by simply taking care not to run into visible
breakers.

Mark and Bob did not get back to the Rancocus until
near three o'clock. They found everything as they had
left it, and the pigs, poultry and goat, glad enough to see
them, and beginning to want their victuals and drink.
The two first are to be found on board of every ship, but
the last is not quite so usual. Captain Crutchely had
brought one along to supply milk for his tea, a beverage
that, oddly enough, stood second only to grog in his favour.
After Bob had attended to the wants of the brute animals,
he and Mark again sat down on the windlass to make
another cold repast on broken meat as yet, they had not
the hearts to cook anything. As soon as this homely meal
was taken Mark placed a couple of buoys in the dingui,



70 THECRATER;

with the pig-iron that was necessary to anchor them, and
proceeded to the spot on the reef, where it was proposed
to place them.

Our mariners were quite an hour in searching for the
channel, and near another in anchoring the buoys in a way
to render the passage perfectly safe. As soon as this was
done, Bob pulled back to the ship, which was less than a
mile distant, as fast as he could, for there was every ap
pearance of a change of weather. The moment was one,
now, that demanded great coolness and decision. Not
more than an hour of day remained, and the question was
whether to attempt to move the ship that night, when the
channel and its marks were all fresh in the minds of the
two seamen, and before the foul weather came, or to trust
to the cable that was down to ride out any blow that might
happen. Mark, young as he was, thought justly on most
professional subjects. He knew that heavy rollers would
come in across the reef where the vessel then lay, and was
fearful that the cable would chafe and part, should it come
on to blow hard for four-and-twenty hours continually.
These rollers, he also knew by the observation of that day,
were completely broken and dispersed on the rocks, before
they got down to the island, and he believed the chances
of safety much greater by moving the ship at once, than
by trying the fortune of another night out where she then
lay. Bob submitted to this decision precisely as if Mark
was still his officer, and no sooner got his orders than he
sprang from sail to sail, and rope to rope, like a cat playing



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